It's sad really, that at 28, I can find new ways of being a twat that even amaze myself. It's like an experienced farmer still being dazzled by the forces of mother nature I suppose, much to the surprise of his young servant boy, Timmy: 'I thought I'd seen it all my son, until... ha! The great hurricane of four harvests ago. Serving as a reminder of the earthly powers at God's disposal, I discovered a new found respect...' (do farmers really talk like this?)
Anyway. On Friday the 26th of June, at around 5.50pm, the following happened:
I spilled Ribena all over myself after trying to simultaneously drive and re-set my sat-nav, as I'd missed a turning because I was too busy eating a sandwich because I'd had no lunch, there being no food in the house as I'd been gigging all week and had got up late, and I was resetting the sat-nav because I knew the route it would take me was busy, because I have traffic alerts on my in-car CD player which although useful (especially in this case), I actually find hugely annoying but I'm unable to turn them off as I've lost the manual to my CD player. To cap this all off, in order to 'nip that stain in the bud,' I decided to deliberately pour a whole big bottle of Evian over myself, as I knew I couldn't put my t-shirt in the wash for at least 10 hours, and my mum says 'blackcurrant stains.' And I was late for the gig. Horrifically late.
So I'm sat there, in a *hired car, dripping wet from a whole bottle of water I'd poured over myself on purpose, sat on a gridlocked M5 thinking 'things have got to change. It's unacceptable. This can't go on.' And I was deadly serious this time, serious enough to text it to myself, so the message would sit in my inbox and remind me, and every time I considered something that deep down I knew was stupid I wouldn't do it, because of that little text. I don't know if you've ever worn an Evian drenched t-shirt whilst crawling along the motorway in a hired Daewoo Matiz, but it's quite a sobering experience. The type of sobering experience that can lead a man to text himself. I turned up at the gig, t-shirt still wet and a bit depressed as the sandwich wasn't even that nice (fifth day on the trot I'd eaten my tea in a services), and a bit concerned that I'd got Ribena over the Matiz upholstery, and immediately told the promoter. Now, the type of incident outlined above happens to me about once a week, and usually I brush it off, laugh stoically and carry on. But I was a bit miffed on Friday, as I'm tired of leading a tosser's life. Genuinely tired. Exhausted, in fact. People's reactions to this type of wankery are also almost always the same:
'It's all good material.' - For what? Writing a sit-com about twats?
'If you changed, maybe you wouldn't be as funny.' - Really? Sigh. That's depressing. Surely I've got enough of this shit in the bank now, so can't I just make the rest up? What about... man tries to eat Double Decker whilst driving and feeding his cat, the hot breath of the cat causes the Double Decker to melt, chocolate gets on the steering wheel and he crashes his car into one of those water things you see in American films, the cat gets frightened by the water - end of scene. There. The man (played by that guy from My Family and the BT adverts) has lost his car, his cat, and his dignity. Job done.
Despite the journey however the gig was good, the people of Barnstaple seem nice and it was lovely spending time with Isy Suttie and Nick Revell, who are great company. Whilst annoying the Evian trick also seemed to work, so well in fact I wore the t-shirt the next day, as mam's information is seemingly incorrect and the stain came out a treat. Oh well. All's well that end's well.
What with it being the run up to Edinburgh, I now spend a lot of my time writing my Edinburgh show, and organising gigs where I can drive long distances to try it out for no money. I'm not going to complain about this - it's the same for all comedians (unless they get famous), and is a downside to a job that is otherwise brilliant. That said, my preview in London last weekend was particularly depressing. The Canal Cafe Theatre in Little Venice is a bloody excellent setting for stand up, and I've had the pleasure of playing it twice when it's full. Having talked to the lovely venue manager I organised a preview for my solo show and was full of beans, imagining giving my debut hour a run out in front of a packed house, the inevitable plaudits afterwards, the celebratory drinks, taking fifty of my fans out for a meal in the West End, being knocked over by a car Graham Coxon style because I'm pissed, but dusting myself off and it all being hilarious, whilst hot babes and comedians I respect whisper 'Christ, I wish I could write call backs like you Elis, that was amazing. You're an inspiration.'
Unfortunately, this is about as realistic a dream as having the internet in your face to make online shopping easier. To anyone who knows the London comedy scene, it's about as tearjerkingly misguided as those Scottish heroin addicts you used to see on Comic Relief in the 80s, who'd say things like 'ah thought ah'd move tae London tae make money, because the streets would be paved with gold, ya know,' as Phil Collins played in the background and Lenny Henry choked back tears. The gig was due to start at 5pm, and at 5pm I had sold ZERO tickets. That's right - ZERO. At 5.15pm I had still sold ZERO tickets, but by now my friends Martin and the ever loyal Josh had turned up, and kept saying things like 'welcome to Edinburgh' as I fiddled with my dictaphone and worked out ways to kill myself using clutter from my leatherette manbag. Always eager to look at the positives, it was pointed out that there was no 6.30pm or 8pm show, and if I wanted, I had all night to try and cajole people from the street and get the requisite 10 audience members you need to make stand up feel like a proper gig, and not an intrusive mental person with a microphone talking at western tourists who've been taken hostage.
Being of pretty stern stuff, this was the option I went for, which just convinced me that my decision to pay for flyerers in Edinburgh was the right one. One middle aged woman was drinking wine with her daughter, and she reacted to the suggestion they come and watch my Edinburgh preview in a way that's usually reserved for watching a man with learning difficulties dip his penis into a steaming cafetiere. Two very nice men promised that they'd 'come up for fifteen minutes if they could bring their puddings,' while most people said quite honestly that 'they weren't really up for it, thankyou very much.' By 6.30pm I decided to start, as having put something on Facebook (I might be a twat but I do have a posh phone), Rhys, a friend of mine from school I'd not seen for five years turned up with his flatmate Danielle, Martin and the ever loyal Josh were still there (Josh the sweetheart had even called his mate Ian), India from the box office had nothing better to do and Damien the sound guy swelled my audience to a now respectable, er, seven.
Now, gigs with seven punters in a room that holds 60 pose invariable problems, but problems that can be counteracted if you're used to it. At around the ten minute mark, following some self-deprecating gags about performing in front of an audience whose names I all knew, everything seemed to be going well and the show was in full swing, until I realised that Danielle had taken out some needles and was fucking knitting. Actually knitting. It was like being heckled by a grandmother. I asked her what she thought she was doing and she responded coolly by saying 'don't worry - I am listening.' I asked her what she was knitting and discovered that it was a scarf. On pointing out (fairly I thought) that it was fucking June and that finishing a scarf was hardly essential, she shrugged and said 'I'm halfway through it now.' In the same way that a skint student can get used to renting a windowless box room fairly quickly, I left it at that, and carried on with my car crash of a preview. The problem however, is that when jokes failed (as they inevitably will at previews in front of 7 people), the silence was punctuated uncomfortably by the 'click click click' of knitting needles, which served to make the whole experience feel even more catastrophic. Eventually, the ever loyal Josh (and you don't get a prefix like that unless you go to a lot of my gigs) muttered 'listen El, I've heard this bit of material loads before (he has, to be fair) - can you not just tell the story about when we went to Mike and Lucy's wedding?' And so I did. And then I realised that everybody else had heard my usual jokes, as Martin and I gig together, Ian is often dragged along to my shows by the ever loyal Josh, and both India and Damien as venue staff had seen my preview the previous week. By this point, I realised that being amongst friends (and Rhys has known me most my life), I could throw it open to the floor and play 'story karaoke,' and before long I was ignoring my prepared material and talking bollocks about anything that people wanted me to.
It was quite good fun to be honest, and I think I might do something similar to this in Edinburgh, although hopefully in front of more people, and hopefully those people will listen rather than be making clothes for winter. The weirdest thing is that I've managed to become nostalgic about what was essentially quite a horrible experience, despite it being less than a fortnight ago. I have a superhuman ability you see to become nostalgic and romanticise almost anything, to a degree that is probably unhealthy. After all - did Joe Strummer sit around, reminiscing about school sports days and adverts from his childhood? No, of course he didn't. He lied about his background, changed his accent, bought a guitar and wrote a few blistering punk albums. I found myself becoming nostalgic today about a a photo that was taken of me and the ever loyal Josh sitting on a beanbag, in the GSOH office. The photo was taken under a week ago. I sat there, staring at this photo, thinking, 'aw, what a lovely day. We had pizza at that place in Brixton, before bumping into Nighto and Jon in a cafe and going to the office for a cup of tea.' This is pathetic behaviour, and I should be ashamed of it. I'm no lost cause though. The things I can't be nostalgic about, despite my nature, are as follows:
- Glastonbury 2006. It pissed down for three days and was about as bleak as terminal illness. It was horrible, and is something I never care to repeat. End of story.
- Pretending to my first proper girlfriend that I liked jazz-funk. For 18 months. Even though I regard jazz-funk as the aural equivalent of a girl being fingered against her will on a nightclub dancefloor.
So there you have it - the big two. Anything else - men wearing cloth caps to the football, pit disasters, shit stand up gigs, Teddy Boys slashing cinema seats with stanley knives in the 50s, the bubonic plague, the blitz, Menswear being on the cover of the NME, cavemen skinning mammoths with a sharpened bit of flint, Elizabethan ruffs, rotten boroughs, Lloyd George threatening to fill the House of Lords with Liberal peers in 1911, 30 million people watching The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special in 1977, Morrissey wearing a hearing aid on Top of the Pops...that, that I can all get nostalgic for.
But jazz-funk and a wet Glastonbury? No. Have I ever told you about the time I poured Evian on myself whilst driving to a gig in Barnstaple...?
* the reason I was driving a hired car is that I had a gig in Brecon. For those who aren't up to date with Welsh current affairs, Brecon's a town in one of those local authorities that lost all its money in Icelandic banks. Brecon now famously doesn't turn on its streetlamps because it can't afford to, which shouldn't be a problem, it's just that some fuckpouch decided to paint some of these lamposts black for 'aesthetic reasons.' Having headlined the gig I promptly left the venue at midnight, and reversed my car into a lampost I hadn't seen. I still didn't know what I'd hit, until I got out of the car and saw (an admittedly very aesthetic looking) lampost swaying like a fairground attraction and and the back of my car looking like a prop from The Sweeney. It's dad's car and he doesn't know about this, but it's more likely I'll be using the internet on my face before my dad reads this on a computer. And I'll have it sorted by then.
NB. I think the fact that it's taken me until now to post this blog despite writing it almost a month ago, shows that the 'send yourself a text' method of self-improvement is flawed.